While talking to a friend who is struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, she said something that really kind of threw me off. She said, “You’ve been in this place, you know how I feel.” I sat there thinking, “Yes, I have been in that place, but I have no idea how you feel.” People think everyone experiences depression the same way, and that just is not true. Sure, I did have similar thoughts to those my friend was having and I could relate to her. But, everyone is different and everyone struggles differently. What my friend feels and how she handles her depression are completely different than mine. That being said I still wanted to help her. Here are some tips that have helped me be there for my friends while struggling with my own issues.
Be Educated About Your Own Mental Illness And Theirs
There are many resources out there. A great place to start is by getting a general understanding of the definitions. The National Institute of Health’s Medline Plus is helpful. Also, many mental health organizations have great websites, Mental Health America or National Association for Mental Illness. It’s important to find reliable and accurate information so be careful where you get your information.
Remember To Pay Attention To Your Own Struggles
Mental illnesses seem to come in waves. Sometimes you may feel okay, and sometimes you feel completely pulled under by your illness. Pay close attention to how you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way. If trying to help your friend is causing your own mental illness to take a turn for the worse, take a step back. Your own well-being needs to be first. This isn’t selfish. If you are both pulled deep into the rabbit hole of mental illness, it will be near impossible for you to help each other get out.
Know Your Resources
There are a lot of different chat and phone services that provide advice and help for people who are struggling. Encourage them to visit sites like Ok2Talk and I’m the Evidence Campaign. These sites can help show them that there are so many people that struggle and have recovered, and can give them a place to feel comfortable expressing themselves.
Turn To a Professional
It is okay to tell your friend you are having difficulty handling their situation, and tell them you think talking with a professional may be more helpful for them. Also, if you have your own counselor or psychiatrist, these are good people to turn to when looking for help for yourself and your friend.
Not everyone with depression or any kind of mental illness fights the same fight. We are all unique and important in our own way.